WINTER GARDEN When the dismissal bell rings at 2:30 p.m. at West Orange High School, it only takes a few moments for the student parking lot to be filled with activity.
Juniors and seniors converge on the parking lot — some quickly dashing to their cars to be on time for sports practice or work. Others walk a bit more leisurely, joking with their friends on the way to their cars.
But as the rush of students exit the parking lot, you’ll begin to notice splashes of bright color.
This year, more than 300 of the senior’s parking spots were painted by the seniors. You’ll see references to hobbies, sports, movies and pop culture. You can even find some inspiration.
One spot gives wisdom that many adults are still trying to learn: “Every day is what you make it.” Another puts a more humorous spin on a well-known piece of advice: “When life gives you lemons, put them in your sweet tea.”
This year, the parking space tradition at West Orange has received national attention. The blog Scary Mommy found photos of the parking spaces over Twitter and wrote a story “Seniors Paint Their Parking Spots For Coolest High School Tradition, Ever” about West Orange High School. The blog was picked up by other outlets — most notably People Magazine’s website.
A LONG-STANDING TRADITION
The tradition started at West Orange High School as a way to allow seniors to be creative and allow them to leave their mark on the school all year long.
The school has more than 500 spots, with more than 300 of those spaces being painted by seniors.
Both juniors and seniors are able to park their cars on campus, but only seniors have the opportunity to paint the spaces.
Prior to 2000, seniors, upon graduation, would try leave their mark on the school by tagging the bridge underside of the bridge near the school, said Phyllis Boston, who works in facilities at West Orange High School and has worked there since 1997. The school wanted to provide another way for students to leave their mark without defacing property off campus, so it created the parking-space tradition.
“Implementing the parking lot spaces was a way for kids to express themselves at school,” Boston said. “They could paint anything they wanted as long as it was approved. … They get to look all year and know that that’s theirs.”
Later, the school allowed seniors to leave their handprints at the school as a lasting mark.
“Even though the parking lot spaces get painted over every year, their handprints neverget painted over,” Boston said.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].
MEET THE ARTISTS
Robinson is a fan of the rapper Drake, so he incorporated a “6,” a number Drake often references in his music. The 6 is a part of the area code for Toronto, Drake’s hometown.
“A lot of people tell me that they like the spot,” Robinson said.
Kernohan is the goalie on West Orange’s water polo team, so her spot is water-polo themed.
“I’ve played water polo for four years, so it’s pretty important to me,” she said.
On the bottom of her space, the letters “G&J” are painted, giving a nod to her friend Gabriella who helped her paint the parking space.
Reason and her mother spent nearly seven hours painting her parking space, which showcases her love of surfing.
“I really enjoy surfing,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 6 years old.”
The space also has two umbrellas, a nod to “How I Met Your Mother” and “Mary Poppins,” two of Reason’s favorite shows. At the bottom of the space, an elevator attaches to the neighboring space, which belongs to Reason’s cousin.